I came across this excerpt from Emily Matchar’s book, Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity and was sad and relieved all at the same time. You see, I grew up on a farm where the women worked at home and the men worked away from home (and this was the 80’s!). I wasn’t home schooled, but I did receive an education from my upbringing that has impacted me in a substantial way.
My mom canned, gardened, made my clothes and costumes. My dad had built our home and on the weekends would work on the property with machinery or fix the vehicles. I grew up with two of the most self-sufficient people I have ever met-the phrase ‘we can make that at home’ was often spoken of things we saw in the city 30 minutes away: jungle gyms, play houses, clothing, etc. A phrase I have adapted at home with my family now.
Spring was my favorite time of year-the smell of the air meant freedom from the walls of school, but it also smelled like raspberries and strawberries-also known as my chores. Every morning during the summer-my job was to pick the red raspberries and strawberries from the garden and put them into the green cardboard pint containers for mom to sell in town. The money was made was for our school supplies and fees for the year. As the summer wore on-the chores changed from raspberries to weeding, to watering, to peppers and tomatoes. In the cool evenings of fall I remember digging up potatoes and picking squash and pumpkins.
The summers were spotted with large canning sessions-I being mom’s right-hand in the efforts. The spring strawberry jam was my favorite-the sweet smell lingered in the kitchen for days as did the red stains on my hands. The strawberry jam, to this day, is the best jam I have ever had.
In addition to strawberry jam, we would can tomatoes, pears, apples, relish, beets, green beans, carrots and anything else my mother could. If we didn’t can it-it would get frozen or dried in the dehydrator (often apples became apple chips). Sometimes our efforts were inside in the kitchen and sometimes, to preserve as much cool air in the house, we would get the portable electric stove and move outside. Often my job was to keep the flies away-as you can imagine the flies kept a young child quite busy.
Dad would come home for lunch and lunch would be ready on the table-I often had to run out to the garden to pick the green onions, lettuce or spinach for the salad. I grew up loving spinach-in my house, it was a spring treat we only got once a year. After starting grade school-spinach was the most popular hated veggie among my classmates – a hatred I didn’t share or understand. I thought spinach made you big and strong-just like Popeye! It wasn’t until I was quite a bit older and had the store-bought canned spinach that I finally understood what my peers thought spinach to be. I had never seen spinach look so sad and desecrated-or taste so bland. I genuinely felt bad for my classmates and their exposure to such an atrocity.
Over the last 60+ years, Americans have decreased the percentage we spent on groceries by more than half. Oddly, over a time period when home vegetable gardens decreased as well. Our basic necessities have changed along with our viewpoints of money, status and occupation. In addition to the feeling that the hours of the day have begun to consume us as opposed to just running their due course. I myself, being a college graduate have begun to have this daunting feeling that somewhere-we got it wrong. Not that women shouldn’t go to school and get a degree, but we (both men and women) have taken it upon ourselves to work so hard for other people’s businesses-we forgot that our families are our primary business.
Growing up on a farm in the country with a home that was heated by a wood-fireplace and fed by the bounty of a garden-it was a job to maintain the home. Each day’s tasks were dictated by the weather, the garden, and the land. There was always something to work on and knowledgeable bodies to do it. While I feel that technology is important and I definitely do my share of dabbling-there is something to be said about living a slower-paced life and working for your family as opposed to working for someone else’s cause. I find the term ‘femivores’ funny-because when I was growing up, I called her ‘Mom’.